In his last full season with the Washington Wizards before he was traded to the LA Lakers, Rui Hachimura played just 42 games. He sat out the first 39 games of the 2021-22 season to take care of his mental health and to deal with injuries.
Here's what he had to say in an interview two years ago about missing games to get his mind right:
"I just need to get back to basketball mentally. I was out for two weeks at the beginning of the season, then I came back, then I was out for two weeks again. It’s really hard to keep my mind."
Rui Hachimura, before the said season started, last played organized basketball during the August Olympics in Japan. When his team was eliminated, he refused to engage in the sport and reportedly told the Wizards' coaching staff that he would take time off.
Hachimura played his first NBA game during that season against the Orlando Magic on Jan. 9. He then missed more games due to conjuctivitis.
Wizards coach Wes Unseld Jr. emphatically supported Rui Hachimura's decision to take care of his mental health. He wanted to make the Japanese's return as seamless and as convenient as possible.
Unseld Jr. designed plays that were easier for Hachimura to get used to than what he was used to with the team before. He didn't want the versatile forward to have a relapse.
Rui Hachimura's case isn't rare, particularly over the last few years.
Miami Heat forward Kevin Love has spoken about mental health issues over the past few years. Love was initially hesitant to talk about it as he didn't know how his peers and fans will react to the things he was dealing with.
Fortunately, the league and the fans supported him, which made it easier for others such as Hachimura to be more open about the issue.
Rui Hachimura has rediscovered his form with the LA Lakers
The LA Lakers traded for Rui Hachimura before the February trade deadline. Lakers GM Rob Pelinka sent guard Kendrick Nunn and three future second-round picks to Washington in exchange for him.
Despite the presence of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers had a 22-25 record when the trade was made. They were 12th in the Western Conference and looking like they will miss the playoffs for the second straight year.
Along with the other trades that Pelinka orchestrated, Hachimura helped the Lakers own the best record since the trade deadline. He has become a solid contributor, averaging 9.6 points on 48.5% shooting and 4.7 rebounds.
Rui Hachimura has proven to be an even better performer in the playoffs for the LA Lakers. Heading into Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals, he is averaging 11.6 points on a sizzling 58.8% shooting, including 54.8% from deep.
Hachimura's best postseason performance of his career was in Game 1 against the Memphis Grizzlies. He dropped 29 points on 11-14 clip from the field, which was highlighted by 5-6 shooting from deep.
In the first half of Game 2 of the conference finals, he had 17 points to lead all scorers. He made all seven of his shots to lead the Lakers to a 53-48 halftime lead.